Jerry Springer is back and taping new episodes of “Judge Jerry,” one of last season’s biggest daytime success stories.
The syndicated show marked Springer’s debut as a TV judge a la “Judge Judy” et al. — and was quite a departure from the raucous “Jerry Springer Show” he hosted for 27 years.
“We were mixing two audiences,” Springer, 76, says of Season 1. “Roughly half the audience were people who were just fans of the old show … and they were looking for me to continue with my quips. Then there was the new audience, who just like court shows and were tuning in like, ‘Oh, this is interesting. Let’s see how Jerry does as a judge.’
“There was a balance for me between making sober judgments and legal judgements that have validity,” he says. “I have to be serious about that. But I didn’t want to take away the entertainment value of joking around every once in a while.
“As the year wore on I became more comfortable with that mix.”
As did TV viewers, who helped “Judge Jerry” average 1.3 million viewers a week as the highest-rated new syndicated court show since “Hot Bench” in 2014.
Although Season 1 ended in the spring, Springer recently returned with five new episodes dubbed “Quarantine Court,” shot remotely due to the pandemic — with Springer at home in Florida, “Judge Jerry” bailiff Najee Hinds in Brooklyn and the litigants in Arizona.
“We wanted to try it if it later becomes necessary [to shoot remotely],” he says. “We wanted to know that we could do it and, because we’re syndicated, so did the [local] station managers. They now know we can produce a product for them and can do Season 2 whatever the rules are about the pandemic.
“It’s comforting to them.”
Springer, who just returned to the show’s Stamford, Ct. courtroom to shoot Season 2 — with pandemic protocols in place (no studio audience, social distancing with Hinds and the crew, etc.) — says there won’t be any drastic tweaks to the “Judge Jerry” format when it returns this fall.
“It will be pretty much the same,” he says. “The first few weeks [last season] I was so conscious about being a serious judge and I was joking less. Now that I’m comfortable with that, and remembering everything I was supposed to have learned in law school … frankly, there’s no particular formula for [success]. If there was a formula there would be no failures.
“I really love this,” he says. “It feels like I’m using a part of my being that I never had to use in the [‘Jerry Springer’] talk show.
“It’s called ‘a mind.’ ”
And, he says after handling 260 cases in Season 1, that the toughest cases to adjudicate are domestic situations — particularly family members suing each other.
“That’s really hard, and that’s where the father and grandfather in me comes out,” he says. “I just hate to see that. I did a case yesterday where I said to the party, ‘You can win the case and lose a sister. Is it worth it?’ I’m going to rule based on the law and justice, but at what price?
“When this is over they’re going to go home and have to live with it.”